Inside an Anxious Mama's Mind in These Uncertain Times
Anxiety is a nightmare to live with. It makes it impossible for me to enjoy the moment because I’m always focused on the “what ifs.” On a normal day, I’m thoroughly exhausted by 10 a.m. because my brain has been going non-stop since 4 a.m. Despite my exhaustion, I can’t sit still because I don’t know how to relinquish an opportunity to be preparing for the future. Thanks to current events, my anxiety is even more rampant than usual. If you have anxiety, then I’m sure you can relate. If not, then here’s a taste of what it’s like to be in this anxious mama’s brain right now.
As I write this, Hurricane Harvey just wreaked havoc on the state of Texas, Hurricane Irma is creating a path of destruction across the Caribbean Islands and Florida, dozens of wildfires are destroying the Western United States, and an earthquake of epic proportions just annihilated portions of Mexico. These unexpected natural disasters have me wondering if my family will be affected next and how to prepare.
There are no good options when it comes to preparing for a natural disaster in the midst of all of life’s other demands. Time does not stop so we can make sure we have weeks worth of supplies, or attempt to condense our lives to that which will fit in a car. This is assuming we even have the disposable income to use on preparations or evacuation. Not all of us can drop that kind of money because Mother Nature decides now would be a good time for a natural disaster.
Let’s say that hypothetically I do have the money, energy and time to pack up our belongings for God knows how long and spend hours driving with two screaming children and a prayer we can find a place to stay other than our car. Even if we make it out of town, who’s to say some other travesty won’t befall us? What if we get stranded because our car breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone service? I don’t know how to fix a car or survive in the wilderness.
Or what if one of my children becomes seriously ill or injured and time is of the essence? I know basic first aid, but anything more and I’m reliant on speedy and competent emergency medical service providers (which are not likely to be plentiful during a natural disaster, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service) so I’ll be forced to sit by ignorantly, wishing I’d studied medicine so I could do something to intervene.
If I’m lucky and never have to experience a natural disaster, then I still have plenty to worry about: my eldest son started kindergarten last week. Kindergarten isn’t cute – it’s horrifying! All I can think about is various school shootings. My brain equates my son’s entry into the public school system as his entry into the realm of school shootings. It used to be that the biggest threat in elementary school was embarrassing oneself in front of the class or acquiring head lice. Instead, now I worry about not being there when my son needs me to protect him from violence no child (or adult for that matter) should ever experience or be witness to.
If I’m not worrying about school shootings, then I’m worrying about how to possibly raise a decent human in a culture that boasts violence, discrimination and oppression. How do I ensure my children recognize the privilege they have as white (presenting) people in this society when they can plainly see people of color being treated as sub-human? How can I encourage them to have pride in their Latino culture when immigrants (whose status in the United States was guaranteed to be secure) are now being deported? How do I convince them feminism is for everyone when the president spouts misogyny and gets to maintain his position of power? How can I impress upon them the importance of bodily autonomy when our society demands control of women’s bodies day in and day out?
I ruminate about these things knowing full well I can’t control anything outside of myself. Perhaps that’s the most maddening part of anxiety – I know I can’t control anything and yet I run myself ragged trying to prepare for all the possible scenarios as if all that preparation will keep me from an undesired outcome. Unfortunately, all the worry and preparation in the world doesn’t keep bad things from happening (if it did, I’d have a perfect life). It also doesn’t ensure good things will happen. What it does seem to consistently produce is me not being present for the good things when they happen because I’m so worried about the bad things that might happen.
The reality is this: risk follows me everywhere and I can’t worry myself or my family into safety and security. While I can’t control my anxiety, I can do everything in my power to keep living my best life despite my recurrent fears. All I can do at any given time is my best and that has to be good enough. So as natural disasters roll in, and my kid climbs onto the school bus and waves goodbye, and the state of our country continues to disintegrate – I’ll just sit here and acknowledge I have no control over the future. All I have is this moment right now.
Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.
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Thinkstock photo via bmcent1